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South Korea evacuates scout jamboree as Khanun approaches

August 7, 2023

South Korea is scrambling to evacuate tens of thousands of scouts from an international jamboree gathering as Tropical Storm Khanun bears down on the coastal site. The event has already struggled with a heat wave.

Participants for the 25th World Scout Jamboree arrive at a camping site in Buan
More than 40,000 people, mostly scouts aged 14 to 18, are at the jamboree in Buan, South KoreaImage: YONHAP/REUTERS

Seoul on Monday prepared to evacuate a coastal site, where scouts from around the world are holding their annual jamboree, as Tropical Storm Khanun barrels toward the Korean Peninsula.

Organizers of the gathering of some 43,000 scouts have been struggling with a severe heatwave for days, with some scout troops already withdrawing because of the extreme weather.

Why is the evacuation deemed necessary?

Both the government and organizers had already pledged that their top priority is safety, having laid on water trucks, air-conditioned spaces, and medics because of the heat.

With the storm bearing down and due to reach southern South Korea early on Thursday, threatening to batter the site with strong winds and rain, a mass evacuation is now planned. Officials in South Korea have categorized Khanun as a typhoon, which is a tropical storm with winds stronger than 61 kilometers per hour (38 miles per hour).

The World Organization of the Scout Movement said South Korea's government had confirmed all participants would be evacuated from the site in the southwestern county of Buan.

Multicolored tents on a field for the 25th World Scout Jamboree in Buan, South Korea
The jamboree site is on reclaimed land near the coast, making it vulnerable to flooding Image: KIM HONG-JI/REUTERS

"We urgently call on the government to expedite the plan for departure and provide all necessary resources and support for participants during their stay and until they return to their home countries," the scout body said.

South Korea's Yonhap news agency reported the remaining participants would begin leaving the campsite from Tuesday morning.

It was unclear where the participants would stay before returning home, but South Korean President Yoon Suk Yeol's office hinted that the scouts may relocate to the capital, Seoul, for the rest of their stay.

UK and US scouts depart early

Scouts, mainly teenagers, from 155 countries had gathered for the jamboree, although some scout troops had already pulled out after facing temperatures of 33 degrees Celsius (91.4 Fahrenheit).

The UK and US contingents had already withdrawn from the site because of the extreme heat, with the US scouts staying at a US Army base and the British at hotels in Seoul.

The Australian group became the latest to say it would leave the base, made on land reclaimed from the sea, citing the risk posed by the storm.

Scouts from Singapore have also moved into accommodation elsewhere, although organizers said they were still participating in on-site activities.

rc/wmr (AFP, AP, Reuters)